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The Hunting Act 2004 banned fox, deer, hare and mink hunting in England and Wales to “prevent or reduce unnecessary suffering to wild mammals”

 A study by the League Against Cruel Sports revealed that the Hunting Act has helped protect over 100,000 animals, but due to the exemptions in the Act it could have been nearer 3 million.

 Exemptions were included to prevent the banning of activities not intended to be prohibited. The problem is unscrupulous hunters routinely avoid prosecution by using exemptions as loop holes. With very few prosecutions and limited penalties they enjoy the freedom to continue chasing and killing deer, foxes and other mammals, much as they did before the ban.


 Hunting often takes place on open land where there are few people, or in wooded areas out of bounds to the foot followers, making it difficult to catch law-breakers in the act.  Even if they are caught red handed, it’s hard to prove illegality in court due to exemptions in the Act being used as alibis. For example, the 'FLUSHING TO GUNS’ exemption allows deer to be flushed out by dogs from where they are hiding or resting up. The hunters are supposed to shoot the deer immediately it appears, but this is not always the case. When (accidentally!) allowed to escape the deer can suffer the terror and exhaustion of a lengthy chase by dogs prior to the kill.  If caught in the act the hunters can claim the ‘Flushing to Guns’ exemption.

Other exemptions used as false alibis include:

TRAIL HUNTING where the scent of an animal is laid across the countryside which the dogs follow instead of a fox. A recent investigation has shown that 99% of Trail Hunts do not follow a trail.  Philip Mansbridge, UK director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) says trail hunting is being used as a ruse to allow illegal hunts to continue. “Time and again we see trail hunting used as a smokescreen – no more than a false alibi to illegally chase or kill foxes.”

 DRAG HUNTING where a pack of hounds hunt a scent which has been  dragged along 10 or more miles of terrain. "Donald" a hunt's terrier man who wishes to remain anonymous said of drag hunting “Nobody is obeying the law. Trying to keep within the law is a waste of time. We made a token effort to comply with the law on the first day it came in by using a drag but the hounds did not even look at it. They went on and found a fox as usual. After that we never even bothered using a drag at all."

 If caught abusing the law Drag hunters claim that they only follow the drag and if a fox is killed it is by accident.

TERRIER WORK (hunting with terriers):  Lobbying by the shooting industry led to the inclusion of a new ‘Gamekeepers Exemption’ into the Hunting Act allowing hunters to flush out a fox. To flush it out a terrier is placed at the entrance to a fox earth and encouraged to pursue the animal underground. Terriers can attack and rip apart animals underground while the dogs themselves can also suffer horrific injuries as they each fight for their lives. The fight can also cause the earth to collapse which, on many occasions, has involved the suffocation of both the fox and dog. Animals that are “dug out” can be beaten to death with a shovel or heavy stick or thrown alive to the dogs to be mauled and killed.  Nets can also be used to cover the entrance. Foxes that bolt into the nets can be beaten to death or used as bait for young terriers – a process known as “ragging”.  Under the guise of protecting game birds the Gamekeepers Exemption can be claimed as an alibi.

RESEARCH AND OBSERVATION. The most successful use of an exemption is the 'Research and Observation' exemption, which was intended to allow hunting deer with hounds for the purpose of researchers observing or studying wild deer.  It is often used as an alibi even when it is obvious that no research has taken place. No prosecution has managed to succeed whenever this exemption is used in defense.

At present, hunts have few problems avoiding prosecution – and usually do.  If they are sentenced, lenient punishments are usually given.

The Hunting Act needs to be urgently reviewed. To ensure the law no longer allows the use of exemptions as false alibis we propose the following amendments:

Remove the ‘Observation and Research Exemption’ that has been systematically abused by stag hunts

Prohibit the use of dogs below ground by banning all terrier-work and "digging out" by hunts and others.

Provide law enforcers with a power of entry to property and land where hunting takes place and the landowner denies access.

Judgements given should include significantly higher fines and longer jail sentences.

Extend the Hunting Act to Northern Ireland, the only part of the UK where hunted animals have no protection. Here, tame deer are released into the countryside to be hunted and killed by dogs. Some of the 18 registered hunts in Northern Ireland advertise for people to pay thousands of pounds for the ‘pleasure’ of taking part in blood sports banned in their own country.

 By signing this petition you can help change the barbarity and cruelty involved in hunting.  Eric Rogers, columnist in the Guardian newspaper wrote: “Small online petitions can effect change. They can win with ten signatures or with 10 million signatures.”


A scheme to allow deer-hunting at Epping Forest was axed after claims that witnesses saw deer being “disemboweled” and hunters with obviously visible weapons on display.  In just a few days nearly 5,000 people signed a petition against the City of London Corporation’s decision to allow private deer hunters to hunt on land at the edge of the forest. The Capreolus Club, set up to hunt large game in the UK and across the world, was given the contract. The decision led to a fierce row with people branding it “appalling” and an online petition set up by the Epping Forest Forum amassed thousands of supporters calling for an end to the killing.  Campaigners wrote: “There have been reported incidents of people witnessing deer being disemboweled and of hunters being off the designated land“.  “We do not approve of any hunting for sport and demand that this contract is reviewed with immediate effect.”   

The result of the online petition was that the City of London Corporation announced the ending of the contract due to “public concern”.


Please add your signature to this petition, and also ask your friends, family, work colleagues and anyone else you can think of to sign. 10,000 signatures will get a response from the government. 100,000 signatures are almost always debated in Parliament.

Let’s go for as many signatures as we can to help bring an end to the extensive flouting of the Hunting Act and the brutal cruelty that goes with it.  Let’s keep these barbaric blood sports where they belong, in the history books, along with bear-baiting, cock-fighting, bull-baiting and other cruel blood sports carried out for no good reason other than ‘pleasure’.

Sincere thanks,

Celsi Patricia Richfield

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